Battlefields and Botanical Gardens

Let’s Date-Part Seven

Many times when Dan and I go on a vacation together, a battlefield or a public garden is part of our trip.  

Dan is a history buff and loves to research his ancestors that fought in a war.  He writes books on their journey and adventures of fighting for our country.  I have spent more than one spring break with Dan on a battlefield.  I am sure another battlefield is soon to be visited. 

I love flowers.  I enjoy researching flowers and learning more about what selections to put into my yard. We go on dates to botanical gardens, garden walks, and wildflower meadows.  Because of my new sun-filled yard, I now study prairie and native flowers.  

We both like to say that we earn points if we go with the other to their desired place of interest.  We earn battlefield or garden points.  I am far behind with battlefield points. : 0

We have activities we do together, like ballroom dancing, but we also have activities that the other spouse is really not into.  It is important that we support and encourage each other’s hobbies and interests.  Yes, that means more battlefields, reenactments,  and revolutionary war sites for me.  For Dan that means visiting more botanical gardens, garden walks, or sitting in a wildflower meadow.  

Think about what your spouse enjoys doing.  A hobby or activity.  Then you can plan a date around the other spouses’ interests.  You will earn brownie points for sure! 

Port Hudson Battlefield-2013
Afton Villa Gardens-2013

Thirteen Years

This coming Sunday, Dan and I will start our thirteenth year of ‘Dance With Me Ministries.’  Thirteen years ago we set out to teach a few friends some dance steps along with an empty-nester marriage book study.  We were thinking of a once-and-done kind of class.  God had something else in mind.  

The couples in our year one class wanted more.  More teaching, more fellowship, more dating, more dancing.  It was so much fun and it blessed us beyond measure.  Just one more class we thought.  Just one more class has turned into thirteen years.  We have loved every minute of it.  We have met many wonderful couples.  Thank you out there if you have been a part! 

Here are a few stats for you:

  • over 95 couples have attended
  • started in 2009
  • 16 weeks of classes yearly(except 2021)
  • Continued every year except 2020
  • 2 marriage conferences
  • Over 50 DWMM-sponsored dance/date nights 
  • donations only for venue cost
  • 4 different venue locations
  • 12 Christmas Balls
  • Over 1000 joint volunteer hours for the two of us

It is good that God takes us step-by-step when calling each of us to the unknown.  He takes the desires of our hearts and uses them if we allow Him.  Looking back, we are humbled at how God could take an unperfect married couple, untrained ballroom teachers, and use them to encourage couples to grow closer with each other.   The ministry is all about keeping the marriage close.  The ballroom is the bonus. 

Each year we wonder if it is going to be our last dance year.  Will couples still want to join us?  Has ballroom died out?  It is not for us to answer.  God will open doors or shut them when He wants.  

Our thirteenth year will bring us new couples to meet.  New adventures and more blessings.  Excited to get started. 

God’s Word-Ephesians 3:20

 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us

Spring Garden Dance 2010-Our first-year pioneers: Lori and Dan Bailey, Coreen and Greg Wildebour, Marilyn and Dave Popelka,
Kathleen and Mark Banowetz, Denise and Andy Smith, Therese and Mark Smith, Sheri and Craig James, Kristi and Kent Knake, Pam and Mike Sieke

Date Before Its Too Late

Lets Date-Part Six

When Dan and I began the empty nest part of our marriage, I knew dating would need to be a regular part of our relationship.  It is easy at this stage of our life, to go our own way, and do our own thing.  When a couple is raising their children, that’s where they put a lot of their time and attention.  Instantly it seems, your kids are gone and on their own.  You find yourself looking at each other and saying, “Who are you?”

Many of our friends and acquaintances who began the empty nest stage at the same time as we,  did call it quits on marriage.  They did not know who the other person on the opposite side of the room was.  They lost the closeness in the many years before and didn’t take the time to have quality dating times.    

I feel if you always make it a priority to date each other, no matter what stage of marriage you are in,  you will remain close.  You will know your spouse in an intimate way.  Dan and I made date night a priority all the years we were married.  We didn’t wait until the kids were gone.  If we waited to date, it may have been too late. 

This takes planning and putting a regular time on the calendar.  That’s why they call it a date! Sometimes, Dan and I took turns planning our special outing.  Maybe it was a romantic dinner at home with just the two of us.  Dan would try new recipes, and I loved the night off from cooking.  That was a treat for me.  We would still dress up and make it special even if at home.  

Dating tells your spouse, “You are special and I want to know what’s happing in your life.”  It gets you away from the everyday craziness that life seems to bring.  You won’t regret making dating a priority in your relationship. 

Date Night at Home

Dress to Impress

Let’s Date-Part Five

I love to dress up.  I am not a sweatpants and sweatshirt type of gal.   If you know me very well, you know I love to wear a dress or a skirt most of the time. It is the style I like.  Ballroom dancing gives Dan and I an opportunity to dress up when we go on our date.  I love it when Dan wears a suit and tie.  He looks quite smashing indeed.  : )

Our very first date together was on New Year’s Eve, 1980.  He was taking me to a fancy restaurant and a night of dancing.  It was his time to impress.  Dan drove out on the country gravel roads to pick me up on the Manning farm.  He was dressed up in a light blue polyester suit,  white dress shirt, and tie.  This was not only a time to impress me but a time to impress my parents.  It was their first meeting together.  My parents liked Dan right from the beginning.  I think his suit and his nice personality started him off to a great start.  

Dan in his polyester suit was a step up from what I was used to him wearing.  I was used to polyester but it was a brown and orange uniform with a sailor hat.   He smelled like burgers and french fries.  Yes, we met at a very romantic place called Hardee’s.  It was a fast-food restaurant.  We both were employed there.  So I should say we both smelled like burgers and fries.  We both had greasy brown shoes to match.  It’s a miracle that Dan would even ask me for a date under those circumstances.  Hmmm, I guess we both could see something beyond the brown and orange polyester since it was not very flattering.   

Now fast forward 42 years and we live in a much more casual dress America.  I remember with Dan’s first accounting jobs,  he would wear a suit and tie to work every day.  Now, thanks to Covid, it’s even more casual since his office is at home.   Shorts and t-shirts can be your dress for the day. 

So I enjoy the occasional times we can dress up, look our best for each other, go dancing,  and make it a special date night.  

Dressing up once in a while will go a long way in impressing each other for that special date night. 

2009

The First Dance

Tomorrow, Dan and I have the privilege of attending the wedding of a friend of the family.  The engaged couple approached us about teaching them a few ballroom dance steps for their first dance together as husband and wife.  Dan and I were happy to share our knowledge of ballroom dance with them.  

They chose a song they liked and a slow dance was the best fit for their music.  We taught them a couple underarm turns, a rock step, magic turns, and a final dip for the finale.  

Spending time with this young almost married couple was a reminder of what it is like to always want to be together.  Always wanting to do whatever is asked by the other.  Wanting to dance, just because they know it will please the other.  Smiling at each other-just because.  

They thanked us for teaching them slow dance steps.   They told us that learning the slow dance is something they can take with them in their marriage together.   The slow dance can be easily done in the kitchen, in the garage, or in the bedroom.   

I told them that I believe any married couple that dances with each other daily-would most likely never separate.  

It would keep them close.  Closer together as husband and wife!

Dinner With You

Let’s Date-Part Four

It saddens me to go to a restaurant with Dan, and I look over to see a couple at a table with their heads down-staring into their cell phone screen.  Their attention is obviously not on each other.  How do they know what is going on in each other’s life?   How do they know what is happening in their day?

In my book of etiquette-all cell phones would be put away when eating a meal.  We need a break from technology.  Especially our cell phones.  Dan and I have this as a standing mealtime rule at home or when on a date.  We don’t bring our phones to the table.  A cell phone is easy to grab if it is sitting on the table next to you.  You want to share the world’s latest news, pictures, or statistics.  I have done this a few times.   You have to be disciplined at not grabbing your cell phone.  Your phone seems to have a trance on you.  You don’t even realize what you are doing.  That is scary.  

When Dan and I go out to eat at a restaurant it is an event.  Besides our yearly vacations, it does not happen very often.  We have become more choosy on where we go for our eating out date.  I enjoy a quiet romantic atmosphere.  This really limits our selection.   I despise having TVs in the room where I am eating at.  At one restaurant we went to, I seriously could watch 11 televisions from the chair I was sitting at.  How many TVs does a person need?  You can’t help but have your eyes on at least one of those TVs.  Dan did not have my attention, the 11 screens did.  It was a horrible experience that I would never go back to.  It was not a date.  

On more than one occasion, the venue was so noisy, that Dan and I had to yell at each other to have a conversation.  I would rather stay home. 

We in America have lost the importance of mealtime.  When possible, eating together should be done daily. Mealtime is not just to stuff our faces.   It should never be rushed.  It is a time to connect with our spouse, family, or friends.   This only happens when putting away the screens!

Come Dance with Us!

Let’s Date-Part Three

After teaching our first year of ballroom dancing with ‘Dance With Me Ministries’,  Dan and I wanted to plan ongoing dance opportunities for our graduated dance class to attend.  It would keep us dancing and fellowshipping together when our weekly classes had finished.  After many years of dance class ministry, we still have our monthly dances where couples can go out together for a date.  An added bonus is the food, fellowship, and a wonderful venue that these events bring.  

Summer Lake McBride Dance-For over 10 years our outdoor venue is a large deck that overlooks Lake McBride in Solon, Iowa.  A couple that had joined us for ‘DWMM’ has opened their lovely property and home for us to dance the night away.  We start with a pot-luck dinner together and then have a 1-hour dance.  Dancing to either a Fox Trot, Swing, Rumba, or Waltz overlooking the lake.  : )  At the end of our dance, we are treated to a pontoon boat ride to enjoy the moonlit lake.      

Christmas Tree Market- A fall and spring dance awaits us in the midst of the evergreen Christmas tree market.  Another couple that has attended our ballroom dance class has opened their acreage, barn, and outdoor space to our group.  Food is always a part of our fellowship/dance time with a cup of hot chocolate or cider to help with the coolness in the air.  

For many years we had a Valentine’s dance at a local coffee shop.  The venue is a historic older building, with hardwood floors, and a rural setting.  Most couples would dress up for this once-a-year event.  Homemade delectable desserts would be served along with their house coffee.  A music playlist of romantic songs would be played for this festive occasion. 

Our most attended event is our annual formal Christmas Ball.  The venue has changed throughout the years, but our favorite has been the historic CSPS building in downtown Cedar Rapids.  High ceilings, wooden floors, and large windows to see the snow lightly falling makes for a perfect evening.  Everyone brings a festive Christmas finger food to share.  Punch is served. Our music playlist is all Christmas tunes with the beat of Waltz, Fox Trot, Swing, Polka, Rumba, and Slow Dance.  It is quite the evening. 

As with many fellowship and dating outings, the last few years of a virus have made it difficult to continue on.  But we need each other and especially need to date.  As long as we are able, we will plan to dance!   

Kava House Valentines Dance-2013

Kiss In The Morning, Kiss At Night…

Kiss in the morning, kiss at night… and more when in sight.

It was one week ago today, this exact hour, that my life was about to take a turn.  It started as a usual Friday morning.  Dan was off for his 15-mile bike ride and I was just about ready to leave for my one-hour walk with my girlfriend.  

I was out watering my flowers in the front of my house when Dan came riding back with his newly repaired bike.  A new rim, new brakes, and greasy oiling made for an easy ride.  This was Dan’s comment as he braked roughly down our driveway.  He was not used to having such good brakes.  

That morning, I was in a bit of a bad mood.  Let’s just say, the deer, groundhogs, and rabbits are enjoying the smorgasbord of greens that I have planted for them.  Many of the flowers I had planted and cared for were eaten to the stubs.  “Can you go somewhere else,” may I ask? 

With my grumpy mood, I made the conscious decision not to give Dan a good-morning kiss.  I finished watering my plants and headed off to get in my walk.  

It was a hot and humid morning, but I always enjoy my time being outside and visiting with my friend.  

As my girlfriend and I finished our walk, we were at the point of separating ways.   I looked over to see an ambulance and fire truck parked right in front of my house.  

I was thinking, I am sure that they are not at my house, but someone else’s in the neighborhood.  I just saw Dan an hour ago and he was feeling great.  

The stretcher at my front door told me something different.  I was instantaneously put into panic mode.  I ran inside my house, rushing to find Dan and the EMT.  I ran straight to the basement where Dan has his office, not knowing what I might find.   

As I quickly approached many eyes including Dan’s were all upon me. I heard one of the EMTs say, “Everythings Okay.”  I took a sigh of relief. Moments earlier Dan was experiencing very strong chest pains. He called 911.  When the EMT arrived, they gave Dan a  Nitroglycerin pill and ran an EKG to check his heart.  The EKG looked pretty good they assured me.  But they still advised him to go quickly to the hospital by ambulance.  

A few things were going through my mind at that moment.  One was that Dan was about the same age that his dad was when he died of a massive heart attack.  His dad left us in seconds, without saying goodbye.  The second thing that hit my mind was how I had left Dan that morning, grumpy, in a bad mood, and never giving him a kiss to say good morning.  

How could I let something so trivial keep me from what’s important?  This was part of our routine.  When we see each other in the morning and when we go to bed there is always a kiss.  I know it is an important part of our marriage. It keeps us close as a couple. I let my attitude take over.  : ( I felt a lump in my stomach. 

After a few hours in the emergency room, the tests came back to show there was something that needed immediate attention.  Soon there was a room full of doctors, nurses, and specialists.  A procedure would be done to find out what was causing Dan the chest pain. Quickly I prayed with Dan and kissed him before he was wheeled away.

After Dan’s procedure, the surgeon informed me that he did have a heart attack.  He had 100% blockage in the artery they call the widowmaker.   The surgeon put a stent in right away to allow proper blood flow.  Dan has recovered remarkably.  A week later and you would never know he had a heart attack. 

I feel very thankful that my dance partner is still with me.  I am thankful for the amazing technology, nurses, and doctors that kept Dan‘s heart beating. I am thankful that I had another chance to kiss him hello. 

Your life can change in an instance.  Don’t have regrets!

Kiss in the morning, kiss at night, and more when in sight!

2009

Comparing Yourself to Others

Part One

When you begin ballroom dancing, it can be difficult to not compare yourself with other dancers.  When Dan and I started ballroom dancing, let’s just say, we looked like beginner dancers.  We were not smooth.  We most likely counted every beat.  We looked at our feet.  We were stiff.  We were quite clunky at best.  

With any skill you learn, everyone has to start somewhere.  It is always at the beginning.  It takes, maybe close to 300 hours of practice to show you know what you are doing.  Yikes!

At a few of Dan and my first dance outings, we had couples ask us, “Are you new to dancing?”  We were thinking, it must have looked quite obvious.   Dan and I would try to find a dark corner of the dance floor so we could practice our steps.  We would hide from as many dancers as we could. 

Then we would see a couple who have been dancing for years.  They looked amazing!  Wow!  They were so smooth.  They did so many cool dance steps.  All of a sudden, I would become even more dissatisfied with my dance skills.  I wanted to hide even more.  

I was comparing myself with them and it made our dancing not as much fun anymore.  

I knew to be more content with my own dance skills I had to remember:

  • There are all skill levels of dancers, some with natural talent
  • With hard work, you will get better  
  • The more time and effort you put into dancing-the better we will become
  • Remember why we are dancing

Focusing on Dan and remembering why I was there would help keep dancing enjoyable.  Even as a beginner. 

God’s Word-Galatians 6: 4-5

 Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.

2009

My Father’s Love

My Father’s Day Message

My dad’s name was LaVern.  He was a quiet reserved man.  I never doubted his love for me, even though he seldom used the words, “I love you,” to express that love.  I believe all of my five siblings would say the same thing.  Even though those words were rarely spoken, we saw and felt it in his actions for his family.    I remember a specific time, a few months before he died, a time when he shared his love for me.   My dad was in an extended care facility as he was taking rehab after a stroke.  We were having lunch together along with my daughter.  All of a sudden, out of nowhere, he said,” I love you. “  I almost fell off my chair.  I looked with wide eyes over at my daughter and she was also surprised at his words that day.  I will never forget it. 

Again, I felt his love even though the words were not spoken.  He showed us in many ways:

  • His attendance in my jr. high basketball games-even with me being on the B-team. Watching my every performance as a Pom-pom girl.
  • His random giving of gifts-canna bulbs, tomatoes, a garage sale fruit bowl, his favorite candy (chewy fruit slices)
  • The tour of his garden to show  off the latest in blooms
  • The time he spent with his kids and grandkids

With his love came discipline.  In today’s world, some think discipline and love don’t go together.  People want the freedom to do whatever they want to. I am glad my dad had the love for me that he would discipline me as a child.  He knew what was best for me and loved me enough to show me.   He wanted me to know what was right and what was wrong.  He wanted to protect me.

I didn’t see at the time how discipline was a good thing.   It didn’t feel pleasant at the time, but it worked.   I would be shaped and molded to become the adult that he knew would be best.   I can look back and see how this has been a benefit in my life. 

I think of our Heavenly Father in the same way.  Discipline comes in the name of love.  He loves me so much that He won’t stand by and watch me self-destruct in my own sinful nature.  Sometimes He has to take His loving hand and guide me back to what is best for me.  Most of the time it is not easy.  God is there to protect me. He loved me so much that He sent His Son to save me and to show me the way through His examples and words.   This has shaped and molded my life.  He loves you the same way.  He loves us more than any earthly father can love his child, as hard as that may seem.  

I am thankful for my Fathers love!

God’s Word-Romans 8:28-28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.

My Dad (LaVern)and I-1968